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Holiday Season 2006

The holidays make me reflective. I tend to write at least one personal essay that turns into a letter to friends or colleagues. This month I decided to revise an "oldie but goodie" and share it with you. Let me know what you think.

I hung the last tree ornament yesterday. A latecomer—the rest had been hung days before—its frosty glass, shaped like an apple, glowed alabaster in the white tree lights.

The ornament was a gift from a group of trainers. We'd all been through a head-squeezing, body-numbing, patience-trying three days of preparation in Portland, Oregon, to train 1200 teachers across the country in a recycling curriculum. On the last night, Kathy Prenger, a Portland native, invited us to her house to recoup.

"I'd feel really privileged," her husband said to all of us, "if you'd tell me how you celebrate the holidays where you live and what makes the celebration special for you."

Michelle said her brother, a Chicago fireman, hoses water into a log frame set in an open field, creating a custom ice-skating rink. Brenda's family in Atlanta exchanges only three simple gifts, to symbolize the Wise Men's offerings. Lowell speaks Patois with his father from the Caribbean and listens to his grandmother in DC tell about the days when her parents were slaves.

And I said that I often bring back Christmas ornaments from the places I travel, and revel in the moments they call to mind as I place them on the tree year-in, year-out. Together with all the handcrafted hearts, sleds, bells, churches, wreaths, and other tree trimmers given to me by friends and family, they remind me of moments, some of them milestones, in this life that I claim as mine.

A harlequin hails from New Orleans, where I first heard blues singer Marcia Ball—I was mesmerized not only by her rollicking performance (she's been called the queen of boogie piano) but also by how she'd dared to forge a unique career path. A glass raindrop, suspended by a gossamer thread, recalls Newport Beach, Oregon, where I celebrated my transition from employee to entrepreneur. And now I add to these the frosted glass apple from my newfound friends in Portland. For years to come, I will marvel at how that group arrived as individuals and left as community.

I don't know if our Portland hosts realized what magic they were creating when they invited us to tell our stories around their yuletide log. To learn what matters to another human, even if only in vignette, enriches us all. Blessed are those who ask—and those who listen.

Where are there opportunities in your workplace to learn what matters to a coworker? Where is there magic waiting to be created, just by really listening and paying attention to the moments that make up a life?

Thanks for the part you've played in the story of what I've done in the last few years of my own career, and for allowing me to be a small part of yours. Have a peace-filled holiday.

Blog Entry

Continuing the theme of personal sustainability (in case you'd like to practice it this holiday season), here are some rules for the road.

Coming Up

Cross-Posting: Writing Retreat

Write Time, Write Place, Write Now Royal Rose Inn B & B, Rehoboth, DE. Hold these dates: March 2 - 4, 2007.

I'm launching a writing retreat in March 2007—because what could be better than vanquishing the blank page in the company of fellow writers? If you've been harboring a writing dream—now's the time to say "Yes!" to that dream. Pricing and program details will be available mid-December. If you'd like to take a look, email me to get on the special mailing list.